The same things that keep you warm in winter -- insulation, double-pane windows, weather-stripping -- also keep you cool in summer. But shade is most important for blocking heat. Here are some effective ways to shade your windows, walls, and roof.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, smart landscaping can reduce air-conditioning bills by 15 percent to 50 percent. Leaves absorb some of the heat and cool the air as they release water vapor. Deciduous trees are an especially good choice because their leaves drop in fall, letting sunlight through in the cold months.
Use Shrubs And Vines
Shrubs can reduce heat (and glare) from sidewalks and driveways. Annual vines on trellises can shade walls and windows -- and while you have to wait for trees and shrubs to grow, vines will do their job the first year they are planted. Contact your state's cooperative extension service for recommendations on suitable plant varieties for your climate.
Cover Windows Outside
Exterior shade solutions work better than interior shades because they keep window frames and glass from heating up. Retractable awnings (or those you can remove altogether) are ideal because they will block summer but not winter sun. Leave a gap between the awning and wall so heat can escape. Alternatively, you can have shutters installed. These are effective but fairly costly. For a less expensive solution, try bamboo blinds or similar shades made for outdoor use. They are easy to install (the downside is they must be manually raised and lowered).
Limit Light Indoors
If you can't provide exterior shading, use blinds, roller shades, or tightly woven draperies to keep sun from heating up rooms and interior surfaces that can continue to radiate heat for hours. Multilayered window treatments insulate better than single-layered ones.
Choose The Right Roof
When your house needs a new roof, buy materials that merit the government's Energy Star rating. These reflect light and shed heat, reducing the surface temperature by up to 100 degrees, and cutting down on heat transferred to your rooms.